As the capital city of Britain, it’s not unexpected that London has a wide and varied range of museums and galleries. Collectively they house some of the nation’s greatest treasures and provide open viewing to the general public. The city boasts a number of galleries across its sprawl located in buildings as interesting and historical as the works of art they exhibit.
From Trafalgar Square to the South Bank, much of London’s history can be told through its galleries and the buildings in which they are housed.
National Portrait Gallery
Behind London’s iconic Trafalgar Square you will find the National Portrait Gallery, adjoining the National Gallery on St Martin’s Place. While the National Gallery has a number of pieces of artistic importance on display in its rooms, the National Portrait Gallery has a unique slant on the art it puts on show.
As the title suggests, the gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of artistic portraiture. Selected on the grounds of the significance of the sitter rather than the fame of the artist, the rooms in the gallery are filled by notable figures in British public life through the ages from Shakespeare to the Queen.
While the majority of the portraits in the gallery are painted or sketched, the current temporary exhibition focuses on the boundary-pushing photographic portraiture of Man Ray which runs until the end of May 2013.
The Tate Modern is a fantastic example of a piece of iconic London architecture that’s been repurposed for the modern age. Formerly a huge power station generating electricity for the city, the great turbine hall of the Tate Modern now houses some of the most grand and spectacular works of art of the modern era.
While there’s a whole host of fascinating pieces of art on the inside of the gallery, the building itself is a dramatic work of art in its own right. The Art Deco exterior with its central chimney dominates the Bankside section of the Thames and, following its life as a power station for the city, the heavy equipment was removed and instead replaced with contemporary art from across the globe.
Alongside the permanent collection, the gallery has a number of visiting exhibits to showcase famous artists or schools of art. The work of Roy Lichtenstein is currently on show until the end of May 2013.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Set in the heart of the museum quarter in South Kensington, the Victoria and Albert Museum is another gallery with a difference. Exhibiting a collection that’s part-artefact, part artwork, the gallery is dedicated to the development of the decorative arts including interior design, clothing and textiles, throughout the years.
Rather than being dedicated to the worship of fashion, the Victoria and Albert Museum looks at the way in which clothing and textiles have reflected the time when they were developed and the creative expression that they afforded to the designer and the wearer at their time of creation. Amongst some of the most spectacular exhibits is a cape made from the silk of the Golden Orb spider, created by designers Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, which has caused quite a stir.
The gallery has some wonderful Victorian- and Edwardian-style décor in its restaurants and tea rooms, which are well worth a visit between exhibits.
From the deeply historic to much more contemporary, London has a whole host of galleries that are striking from the outside and rich in history. For those that don’t wish to travel, it’s possible to sample London art trends from the comfort of your own home via online art galleries such as http://www.tint-art.com/.